School celebrates housing, of a sort
By Amber Revels-Stocks
Saturday, September 21, 2019
Cheers, music and popping balloons filled the gym at Ridgewood Elementary School on Friday as students celebrated their inclusion in a new house system school officials say will strengthen bonds and encourage growth.
More than 800 students from kindergarten to fifth-grade gathered to be chosen by Altruismo, Amistad, Isibindi or Rêveur, houses fashioned after those in the Harry Potter books and adopted by education visionary Ron Clark, who built a curriculum now used in schools nationwide.
“It’s a way to put your students into a group that ranges from kindergarten to fifth grade that provides comradery, support, encouragement for positive behavior and growth in academics,” said school counselor Olivia Salter, who spearheaded the movement to bring the system to Ridgewood.
“What really makes the biggest difference when we look at growth in any way — academic, emotional, social — is relationships. Relationships staff have with each other, relationships students have as well as student-teacher relationships play a big role.”
Each house has attributes on which curriculum is centered. At Ridgewood, Altruismo, the black house, is known for giving. Amistad, the red house, focuses on friendships. Isibindi, the green house, values courage. Rêveur, the blue house, is for dreamers and idealists.
Within these groups, students from different grade levels work together to achieve goals and build relationships.
“With all of the students being in a house and all of the staff being in a house, it gives (students) the opportunity to build new relationships with people they might not have otherwise known,” Salter said. “We’re trying to find all kinds of different ways that we can encourage them to have fun and learn to love school while building teamwork skills and building themselves to be the best they can be.”
While the house system is new to Ridgewood, it is not new to Pitt County. Wellcome Middle School uses the house system while PCS Early College High School and Ayden-Grifton High School use modified versions of it with their younger students. Christ Covenant School, a private school in Winterville, also uses a version of the house system that is not based on Clark’s system.
Each school uses a different method to sort students into one of the houses. At Ridgewood, the houses made the decisions.
“It’s completely random,” Salter said. “We tell the students that the house chooses them, they don’t choose their houses.”
The staff blew up more than 800 balloons, one for each student, and filled each one with a different color of confetti. Students chose a balloon, which a staff member popped, and the confetti determined what house they were in.
“You may not end up with the house you wanted, but no matter what house chooses you, you’re going to be proud of your house,” Salter reminded the students. “We never put down other houses. We’re positive. We always cheer and encourage everyone, even if they belong to a different house.”
Fourth-grader Rome Roach was chosen by Amistad on Friday.
“I’m going to be a mentor to the kindergarteners,” fourth-grader Rome Roach said. “I’m in the red house, and our characteristic is friendship, so I’m going to be a friend to everyone.”
Natalie O’Reilly, a fourth-grader, was happy to be in the house she wanted.
“I got into the black house, Altruismo, which is known for giving,” she said. “I was really excited because it was the house I wanted. I think I’m very giving. …
“I plan on encouraging (other house members) to follow all the rules and do well in school,” Natalie said. “I’m ready to do anything really with my house.”
Staff members got to choose the houses they wanted to be a member of. Every staff member is part of a house.
“We decided early on that we as staff could help determine how (the students) buy into it. If we act like it isn’t important to us, they’ll act the same way,” Salter said. “Our staff has been so phenomenal. They’ve really embraced the idea, and it’s just the beginning. I’m really excited to see where this goes.”
Contact Amber Stocks at firstname.lastname@example.org.